You say you want a revolution…

I am curious, have any domestic revolutions ever produced greater liberty? Not wars of secession (like out 1776 event) but actual domestic revolutions with the change of existing government.

Romanian revolution of 1989 seems to be such an example. 1688 British and 1908 Turkish could be, but I don’t know enough about them. The 1793 French and the 1917 Russian were pretty good examples of making matters worse.

Which leads to the questions: how likely a revolution in any country actually improve personal freedoms?

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22 Responses to You say you want a revolution…

  1. Generally speaking, I don’t think violent revolutions lead to more freedom. You have the problem of a power vacuum that is most easily filled by a those who want power and to “restore order.” It would take the revolution being lead by a group of individuals dedicated to bringing about more freedom and who are willing to pass over the reigns of power once they have established a stable government that is designed to maximize freedom.

  2. anon says:

    Chile? Pinochet is hated by the progressives for killing 2500 or so die-hard commies, but he left the country in a lot better & freer shape than he found it. Sadly the people are now back to voting for commies.

    Czechoslovakia? I realize it was somewhat a matter of the Soviets packing up and going home, but they threw off the domestic commies as well.

    The breakup of Yugoslavia? Croatia is doing pretty well these days.

  3. Jenny Hunter says:

    If people rise up, it has to be because their discontent has reached such a fever pitch, they’re not prepared to tolerate either the poverty or the oppression any more, or both. If the revolution is successful in that it overthrows the rulers, be they democratically elected or dictators, their replacement, generally led by the leaders of the revolution, would be expected to provide a reduction in poverty and much greater freedom for the people.
    The problem seems to be in many cases that the difficulties facing the new leaders, with regard to the former, are so formidable it takes a lot longer to bring in even small changes, so discontentment is still present, but, if with regard to the latter, a lot more freedoms are given to the people, it could hold off them expressing their discontentment at not achieving a higher standard of living quickly, but, I would suggest, only for so long. In South Africa for example, there still seems to be extreme poverty but some effort has been made to alleviate it but decades later, many of its people are still chronically poor, but they have much great freedom now so haven’t rebelled again.
    It may take more than one revolution to establish a system of government that satisfies a people, but, eventually, one is arrived at and survives for a long time, for example the UK’s system of government. It has flaws, we still have poverty, but the actual desire for a full blown revolution isn’t there anymore. Pockets of discontentment may flare up every now and then but, collectively, there isn’t the will at all for a violent uprising.

  4. Nikki says:

    Would you consider the American Civil War a domestic revolution? It didn’t lead to a change of government in the end, but that was the direction it wanted to go.

    In that case, the USA had less liberty afterwards because of all of the laws that were either suspended or ignored. Who knows how the CSA would have ended up, but like the American Revolution, it was good talk in the beginning at least.

  5. igorilla says:

    The February revolution in Russia in 1917

  6. mp5fanboy says:

    The Polish Solidarity revolution? I’m not sure what the measure of “better” is, so I do not know if the Polish example works.

  7. Miles Littlefield says:

    How about the Velvet Revolution in 1989 that ended communism in Czechoslovakia and birthed the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic (Slovakia) – a bloodless revolution!

    I think that was one of the most wonderful recoveries for a nation after the USSR breakup…

  8. MicroBalrog says:

    I’m not sure 1793 French revolution is such an example.

    It is true the Great Terror executed 13,000 people [far from the activities of latter day imitators], including people who were charged with actual serious crimes – but remember the freeing of 500,000 serfs on the mainland and 500,000 slaves in the colonies.

  9. ChrisJ says:

    “actual domestic revolutions with the change of existing government.”

    Though narrowing it down even more to the hypothetical situation we have in the US, where the resulting “new government” is actually known at the outset, and a revolution is just the attempt to get back to that founding document.

    Just rolling back to a time when the “necessary and proper clause” wasn’t treated as if it were a carte blanche to do what ever they want, similarly regarding the interstate commerce clause, rolling back to a time pre-Wickard v. Filburn where it meant something beyond doing what ever they want.

    Even something as simple as acknowledging that the idea of incorporation, or more precisely needing incorporation, is bullshit. As if the first eight amendments didn’t make it clear who the people were, and that those rights were theirs’ and theirs’ alone, the 9th and 10th amendments removed any last doubts.

    Anyways, sorry, just a slightly tangential rant on what any such hypothetical revolution in the US would be hoping to achieve.

  10. Eric Oppen says:

    I’ve commented that expecting a revolution to improve things because that was how it worked out for the US is rather like making retirement plans predicated on finding leprechaun gold.

  11. Aglifter says:

    It depends on your situation – part of the US’s success was that it was a war of secession, the other was that there were numerous, capable, men who were educated in a political philosophy which encouraged individual liberty – and that there were similar people in England who opposed the actions of King George on grounds ranging from cruelty (sending mercenaries against his own subjects), to the North American colonies lack of profitability.

    I don’t know that there is a feeling of “revolution” in the US, as an American citizen owes his duty, and his loyalty to the US CON. I think there are numerous people who are very, very angry with the traitors in DC, but I’m not sure that a “war of restoration” is the same as a war of “revolution.”

    • donM says:

      The Texas revolution was, in theory, a revolution in support of the Mexican constitution of 1824. That seemed to work out well for the Texicans.

  12. donM says:

    Of course the attempted southern revolution of 1860 led to greater freedom, but only through its failure.

  13. staghounds says:

    The 1908 Turkish revolution, like the 1688 English, was really more of a palace- occupant selection coup. The actual governments in both cases changed little. Big individual-liberty revolts seldom happen, usually the tyrants get the message and change enough, or just go away before there is an actual revolt.

    I might pick the Philippine revolution as an example, where the tyrant was actively driven out by a popular uprising and not simply replaced by another, or some Generals, with the system remaining in place.

  14. Dandapani says:

    Not working out so well for the Arabs…

  15. Gene Hoffman says:

    Some of this depends on definitions. The Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s was a cold revolution instead of a hot one but everyone was armed…


  16. DaddyBear says:

    I’d say that the fall of the communist government in East Germany and reunification with West Germany would probably count as a relatively bloodless revolution.

  17. Sergey says:

    I say, lets define liberty first. Then we can look into where it increased and at what cost.

  18. Robert says:

    RETROLUTION.Back to 1791

  19. Albatross says:

    I’d say the Hungarian resistance in ’56 made some progress. Sure, it didn’t effect a change of a government, but it dramatically cowed the Communists for the duration of their rule and got Red soldiers out of the cities, and after the Magyars put up a fight, every time they wanted something the Communists would quietly acquiesce so as to avoid having their clocks cleaned again.

  20. Weston says:

    Oleg, seems like the countries in which a revolution might have rendered the greatest good, the state was so strong that it squashed such uprisings before they really started. Most of those that you mention, the state was weak at the time.

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